(Updated 19 Jan 2021)
View the latest Coronavirus (COVID-19): daily data for Scotland here and the latest Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stay at Home Guidance for Scotland here.
Click here to view the latest COVID-19 Business Readiness Bulletin.
Click here to read a message from the new Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng (19th January)
All guidance, information and announcements can be found at GOV.UK. Organisations should pay particular attention to the guidance for employees, employers and businesses which is being updated regularly with the latest advice.
UK's furlough and loan schemes extended
The UK's furlough scheme will be extended for an extra month until the end of April 2021. Businesses will also be given until the end of March 2021 to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. These had been due to close at the end of January. This announcement comes ahead of the Budget, which the Chancellor has confirmed will take place on 3 March 2021. Further information can be found here.
Coronavirus Business Support finder
UK Government has also announced new support measures for businesses. Full details available on the UK Gov website here.
Architects Registration Board. The ARB has some updated guidance for those on the Register practicing during the pandemic.
Update as of 7th January 2021: The Scottish Government has confirmed that safe construction work can continue during lockdown. Only essential work and services should take place at this time. Architects should consider whether visiting sites or properties is essential and cannot be postponed. Where work and services are essential and cannot be postponed alternative methods of carrying out the work or providing the service (for example use of remote viewing) should be actively used. In any event personnel visiting sites should be kept to a bare minimum and full PPE (masks, gloves and the use of hand sanitiser) should be used irrespective of the site rules. Architects may need to carry out their own risk and hazard assessments based on the new Scottish Government rules/ guidance. Please note that further clarification of the position for the construction sector may be issued at any time and so the situation should be monitored for updates on a regular basis as the position may change from time to time going forward.
Unite launches comprehensive Covid-19 construction guide
Unite, the UK’s construction union, has launched a comprehensive construction guide to help ensure the safety of construction workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The guide titled Construction Sector: Covid-19 Guide is specifically aimed at Unite’s construction representatives but can be utilised by all workers. The document is especially relevant as there have been rising cases of Covid-19 on construction sites, thought to be a result of the worsening weather and a subsequent lack of social distancing. Further details here.
CICV Forum - Workplace Signage & Resources
The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum. have a pack of free practical signage and other useful guidance to help with the safe working environments. Designed for sites, depots and offices, the documents include essential posters, checklists and factsheets for on and off-site use, outlining how to manage the restart while keeping staff safe.
Contract Administration For guidance on the implications of Coronavirus on Contract Administration please read the guidance in our Practice Note. (For the duration of the Covid 19 crisis, the RIAS is releasing selected complimentary Practice Notes to assist all members. Practice Notes are normally only available to Practice Services subscribers).
Making your workplace COVID-secure The Health and Safety Executive has useful Coronavirus specific risk assessment guidance available here.
Remote Site Inspections
The obligations of architects undertaking inspection duties is set out at some length in Practice Note FI191 Inspection Duties of an Architect available from the Practice Services area of the RIAS website. Amongst other things it notes that where issuing certificates under the main forms of contract, the architect must be reasonably satisfied that any work that is included in an interim certificate is properly executed and any such site materials are of the contractual standard. Inevitably that means inspecting key elements of the work. Some of these may be partially obscured, or in difficult to reach locations. Rigour is required.
The Scottish Government’s Building Standards Division (BSD) has published advice for local authority building control departments on procedures for remote site inspections during the current health crisis. The RIAS is part of the BSD Building Standards Resilience Liaison Group and been involved in these discussions.
BSD’s guidance is quite clear: remote verification inspections will supplement, rather than replace, physical inspections primarily during the current Covid-19 affected period. The RIAS supports this recommendation – it is difficult to envisage any current digital recording system that will replace the level of detail obtained when on-site.
Members may be likewise considering remote inspections during this period, especially if they are within a shielded or vulnerable group. The advice in FI191 will be of particular relevance to them, as it makes clear that the benchmark for certification is necessarily high. The Practice Committee is investigating such issues further with other stakeholders but in the meantime would recommend considerable caution for those looking at such a route. If health issues limit the personal ability of an architect to undertake their duties in accordance with the terms of appointment then, as a minimum, they should be advising their clients and setting out alternative measures (such as other staff members or temporary input from other professionals) to ensure that they continue to meet their contractual obligations.
Further extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - MacRoberts This article from MacRoberts outlines the updates to the Job Retention Scheme, including eligibility criteria.
ACAS Guidance The ACAS website has a wide range of guidance and resources including furlough advice and letter templates, information on home working, sick pay and working from home.
Working remotely with colleagues and clients The RIBA have published a useful article for practices setting up remote working, making suggestions of what smaller practices can easily implement.
Architect Benevolent Society Support Through Architects Benevolent Society's partnership with Anxiety UK they can provide quick access to a range of mental health support including counselling which can take place over the phone, by email or Skype. They can also offer financial support in the case of redundancy or illness. Full information is available on the ABS website.
RIBA - Looking after your mental health and wellbeing RIBA have a range of resources for members including practical guidance and ideas to help boost mental health and wellbeing. Available here.